Wednesday, May 20, 2009
I love diving.
Today was the day we put all our book learning to the test. But of course there was some more learning to do. We watched the final two videos. Well we started to but then the power went off. So we read the accompanying chapters - they were full of scary things like nitrous poisoning, contaminated air, the bends and other diving disasters. And when the power came back on the videos didn’t do much to make me feel much more comfortable. It’s not really what you want to see before you go underwater for the first time. But that was just me – the videos got Adrian all excited about continuing on to do the advanced diving course. I told Itamar I was really nervous and he once again assured me it would be all clear and easy once we were in the water.
We broke briefly for lunch and then it was time for the equipment briefing. Ita was now accompanied by two assistants Carmel and Avishai, who were doing their divemaster course. The equipment was very intimidating and I was sure I was going to forget something very important – like, um, I don’t know, how about air? In fact it felt rather rushed and I ended up with fins that were too big for me. I asked for another pair but was told they’d be fine. I was given a pair of fins that were too big but was told they were fine. The next time we have to assemble our equipment I know I’ll have to ask for a slower refresher.
Ita had disappeared while we were waiting to get on the dive boat. Nico came over and introduced himself to us – he’s the head instructor and the guy who enthusiastically answered all my email questions. I thought he was being super polite until he explained that he ws stepping in for Ita. Apparently, while we were getting all our equipment together someone broke into his place. She was caught with $1500, his ipod and computer. But now Ita had to go to the police to press charges. Poor him, but glad that the thief was caught.
The chaos continued on the dive boat. There were 20+ other people and all their gear (photo above). I didn’t know where to go or what I was doing. And although there was a routine and protocol I wasn’t clear what that was. Before I could figure it out, we arrived at the dive site. And suddenly, it was time to jump in the water. Just like that? I wasn’t convinced I would float with the very heavy gear on so I made Adrian go in first. Not out of self-preservation (okay maybe a little bit) but because he had no fear or at least no visible fear. He made it so now it was my turn. I hesitated and hemmed and hawed at the platform edge as long as possible, making sure my floatation device was completely filled then jumped in. Although my weights were lopsided and my fins were much too big, I was floating. Woohoo! Step one achieved.
Then it was time to swim to the shallows. It was awkward but easy, actually easier than I thought. But then the hard stuff started – the skills. Skills are the basic tasks you need to be able to do in order to get your certification. Kinda like a swimming test. Including clearing water out of your mask, clearing water out of your regulator, and how to recover a regulator that’s come out of your mouth. All while underwater. Those were easy. Although the wonky weights had me tilting and falling all over the place. Nico was a super instructor. Giving Adrian and I enthusiastic thumbs up and high fives whenever we did one of the skills. The last skill was the one I’d heard was the worst – taking the mask off. Doesn’t sound like a big deal. That is until you realize that your mask is what let’s you see and what keeps the water out of your nose, throat and lungs. But Nico showed us step by step how to do it and it was a piece of cake. We celebrated down below with a happy dance - well more of a happy wobble since my weights prevented any sort of graceful movement.
Mission accomplished it was time to swim back to the boat. My feet started to cramp as I tried to keep my ginormous fins on. And it took me forever to get on the boat with all the weights they’d made me carry. But with the help of Carmel, Avishai and a couple of divemasters I got my fins and then my gear off and was on the boat. On the way to the next dive site, we saw a sea turtle and Nico found a smaller pair of fins for me that I hoped would prevent my feet from cramping again.
The second time in the water was even better. Jumping in was a piece of cake. And this time there were no skills. It was our first real open water dive. And immediately we saw fish and coral and it was amazing. I got the hang of it pretty quick, in fact most of the stuff I was worried about just seemed to take care of itself. I equalized my ears without thinking. I cleared water out of my mask no problem. And was able to control my buoyancy in the water just by breathing in and out. I got so confident that when my mask fogged up (not enough spit, i was told) Carmel motioned to me to fill it with water then clear it – and I did without hesitating. Immediately, my vision improved a hundred fold. We played with these cool umbrellas things on brain coral – when we snapped our fingers near them and they closed and disappeared inside the coral. There were big fish and little fish. Solitary fish and huge schools. There was even a giant crab or lobster thingy. (sorry, no pictures. my camera is not water resistant) I got so engrossed I realized I had no glue where, how deep or how long we were. But I was aware that Adrian wasn’t having as easy a time and probably spent more time on the surface than down with the rest of us. Then it was time to go back up. This time I took my weight belt off before attempted to get on the boat – much easier.
Our first day in the water was awesome. And I couldn’t believe I was ever scared and was now thinking we should do the advanced course. But first we had to finish that last part of our reading. Adrian, had already lost some of his enthusiasm thanks to his inability to equalize his ears or stay down underwater consistently. And the last chapter full of maths, formulas and tables didn’t help. But it was the last chapter and tomorrow we’d be going back in the water. I couldn’t wait.